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( 103 ) 



ON THE BILUCHI TRIBES INHABITING SINDH IN THE LOWER 
VALLEY OP THE INDUS AND CUTCHI. 

By Captain T. POSTANS. 
Read before the Ethnological Society on the 10th of April 1844. 

The general term of Biluchi is applied to a race professing 
the Mahomedan religion, whose country is hence called 
Bildchistan, which may be described as the whole of that 
mountainous and desert region stretching westward of the 
Indus from Cape Monze to the Valley of Shawl, and of which 
Kelat may be considered as the capital. This people thus 
form a connecting link, as it were, between the Persian and 
AflFghan tribes beyond, and the mixed Rajput races who oc- 
cupy the northern and north-western portion of Guzerat in 
India. 

The earliest detailed and well authenticated account given, 
I believe, of this people by a European authority, is by that 
distinguished traveller, and now high functionary, Sir Henry 
Pottinger, who, in the year 1810, undertook a highly danger- 
ous though deeply interesting journey through the whole ex- 
tent of this country, and has recorded, in a series of valuable 
notes, the result of his personal observations and inquiries. 
From that period up to the last five or six years, few, if any, 
Europeans have had the opportunities of seeing more of them 
than was presented by casual journies through portions of 
their country : of such the most interesting results have been 
given by Mr Masson, who, taken as a traveller beyond the 
Indus and in Central Asia generally, is probably the most 
valuable as an actual authority, from the intrepid manner in 
which he threw himself amongst these wild and lawless 
people, and the favourable opportunities he therefore had, 
for a long period of time, of intimately studying their pecu- 
liarities and characteristics. These few observations are 
made at starting, lest any undue value should be placed on the 
slight remarks which are now to be made, and which solely 

VOL. I. G 



104 Captain Postans on the JBiluchi Tribes inhabiting Sindh, 

have for their object the results of the author's experience of 
portions of tribes, with many of wliom the British Govern- 
ment has for the last five or six years been unexpectedly 
brought more or less into contact, seldom amicably, and lat- 
terly in deadly hostility, and over many of whom prospective- 
ly it intends, it is to be hoped, to extend the fostering hand 
of civilization and take to its charge, along with the millions 
who own its sway in the vast regions of the East. And 
here the author trusts he shall stand excused if, in having 
the gratification and advantage of addressing a Society like 
the present for the first tune, he ventures to oifer his humble, 
though sincere, tribute of congratulation, that a body so form- 
ed should exist in this country, having such laudable objects 
to work out as increased knowledge of the races, states, and 
condition of that " noblest work of the Creator," in all parts 
of the globe ; for surely few purposes for which societies are 
formed can be considered as of greater interest or even merit ; 
and, as applied to that magnificent portion of British dominion, 
to which all the attention that this great nation can shew, 
will but be found barely inadequate to do justice. Inquiry 
into its vast and ever varying population must be highly 
valuable, if the result be only to bring us more intimately 
acquainted with a people, who demand not only an interest 
excited by curiosity, but to whom this nation individually 
and collectively are under deep responsibilities ; for it may, in 
all reverence, be fairly inferred, that so immeasurably import- 
ant a charge as providing for the well-being of a large share 
of the population of the globe, was not committed to us as a 
nation by Providence, without demanding a due weight of 
obligation. 

The origin of the Bil6chi, as a distinctive class, is involved, 
like most inquiries of this sort in the East, in obscurity; 
though it may be conjectured that they are of an Arabian 
stock, and in all probability came to the neighbourhood of the 
Indus, either shortly prior to or at the period of the first Ma- 
homedan conquest eastward under the Khalifat of Walid. 
Their own traditions vaguely ascribe their original locality to 
Shdm or Damascus, though they have no date or record, oral 
or inscribed, to attest it. As, however, the seat of the Eha- 



in the Lower Falley of the Indus and Cutchi. 105 

lifat was in those days at Damascus, and it was from thence 
that the army which conquered the countries bordering the 
lower Indus was dispatched, there is some reason for conclud- 
ing that they were colonies from these conquerors who either 
subdued and possessed themselves of the countries of the 
aborigines, who were Hindus, driving them out or else caus- 
ing them to be amalgamated in religion with themselves by 
conversion, of which certain classes amongst them to this day 
bear considerable evidence. 

Such are the B4bis in higher BiMchistan, and the Jutts in 
the lower country. It is also particularly noted by the Ma- 
homedan historians of that period, that certain tribes (an ap- 
pellation not applicable to Hindus, but which the Moslems 
adopted) embraced Islamism, and were obedient to the con- 
queror, receiving immunities for so doing. A list of these 
tribes b even given. But to the Bildchis. They are certainly 
a diflferent race from all about them, they hold no affinity 
except in religion with the Affghans, who are more of the 
Persian character, and are again distinct from the Brahims 
and Mekranis, who are farther west. The true Bildch, or, 
as he proudly styles himself, the " Usdl," (literally, origi- 
nally pure,) BiWch of the desert is decidedly a particular and 
distinct class, and possesses peculiarities apart from his geo- 
graphical position, which would appear to mark him as having 
considerable claim to an original oflfshoot from the Arabian 
family. With respect to the claims of these people to a Jew- 
ish origin, it may be said, like those of the Affghans, to con- 
sist principally in the conformation of feature, — the division 
into tribes and certain curious adherence to the Levitican 
law in the brother marrying the brother's widow, — punish- 
ment of adultery by stoning to death, and other minor points. 
This is too interesting a subject, however, to be passed over 
lightly, but where conjecture can only be applied, and where, 
moreover, the strong bias of the mind might lead to errone- 
ous conclusions, in default of anything authentic, it is perhaps 
better to dismiss it than to hazard mere opinions. Suffice it, 
therefore, to observe, that the Biltich cast of feature is cer- 
tainly Jewish, the appearance and costume of the wilder 
tribes, such as is strikingly represented in Calmet's Illustra- 



106 Captain Postans on tlie Biluchi Tribes inhabiting Sindft, 

tions of Patriarchal Habiliments (though it may probably arise 
from the same causes of climate, &c.) and that, as before ob- 
served, several of their laws, social and religious, bear an affi- 
nity to those of the Levitican ; — ^but whether they (the Bilti- 
chi) have any claim to be of the lost tribes, in any Jewish 
extraction beyond an Ishmaelitish one, is a subject requiring 
deeper and more learned antiquarian research, than has 
hitherto been applied, and, until competently dealt with, had 
better be left alone. 

The history of the Bilfichi is as much involved in obscurity 
as their origin, until a certain period, when they appear to 
have constituted themselves with the Brahors under Nasir 
Khan, about the middle of last century, an independent 
people, and Kel^t became if not the seat of regal power, at 
least of a powerful chieftainship, which the various tribes duly 
acknowledged and maintained by a complete system of feu- 
dalism. As our object is, however, rather to inquire into the 
present condition of this people, as presented to our view, 
than to discuss points which may be considered after all to 
have secondary or antiquarian interest, we may proceed to 
describe the BiWchi as they are, or lately were, for with 
many of them a new order of things has arisen within these 
two years, and causes are at work which may possibly have a 
great effect ultimately on their moral and social condition. 

The first great feature of the Biluchi, is their intricate 
division and subdivision into numerous Koums or tribes, and 
these again are subdivided into almost endless families or 
minor parties. Each tribe acknowledges implicitly the autho- 
rity of a chief, which office is hereditary. The attachment, 
amounting to devotion, paid by this people to their chiefs, is 
manifested on every occasion whether of peace or war, and a 
true patriarchal system is thus perpetuated. But the tribes 
are by no means unanimous amongst themselves ; on the con- 
trary, it is difficult to find any two who are not at feud with 
their neighbours, and a great many have blood quarrels, which 
are perpetuated by continued acts of violence, for a blood 
feud can never sleep, and it is said that a Bildch never fore- 
goes his revenge, though for mutual advantages these feuds 
sometimes slumber, and are relinquished for a certain period, 



in the Lower Valley of the Indus and Cutchi. 107 

and seasons are agreed upon between parties for mutual ad- 
vantages, wherein they abstain from violence ; but on the ex- 
piration of these, the old state of deadly animosity is revived 
with increased bitterness, and a condition of society therefore 
exists, which is analogous to that of the Arabs and wild tribes 
of other countries. This, however, does not prevent this 
people from amalgamating to meet a common foe ; their pri- 
vate sources of quarrel are in such cases kept in abeyance, 
and as a proof of this, the British troops in the course of our 
campaigns beyond the Indus, often found that Biltichi tribes, 
who were well known to be at most deadly feud with each 
other, had joined in meeting the British bayonets in the va- 
rious terrific defiles and passes which the Biltichi held as their 
own unalienable right and property. 

There are no less than fifty-eight distinct tribes branching 
from three great heads, Binds, Mughsees, and Nihroes, not 
calculating their subdivisions, enumerated by Sir Henry Potr 
tinger. Of the numbers of these it would be difficult to ar- 
rive at anything like an approximation, but of those located 
immediately on or near the banks of the Indus, it was cal- 
culated that 40,000 fighting men could be collected, and late 
events have proved that this was a pretty fair estimate of 
their strength, though this, it must be remembered, refers 
only to those dwelling in the cultivated plains, and not in- 
cluding those of the desert or the mountaineers- The prin- 
cipal tribes located in Sindh are the Murris (in reality a hill 
tribe, but having colonies in the plains), Khosas, Muzaris, 
Mughsis, Umranis, Lakis, Chandlers, Julbanis, Jatoin, Salpurs 
(the late reigning chiefs were of this family), ^ama» (the pre- 
ceding dynasty who appear to have been rather of a sacred 
stock than Billichi), Binds, Burdis, Kurmatis, Jokias, and 
Numrias (two tribes inhabiting the range of hills immediately 
to the westward of Karachi, and belonging in reality to the 
province of Lus, under the dominion of the Jam of Bella), 
though their services as escorts to the trader and traveller are 
constantly called for through Lower Sindh, and others. Of 
these the Binds, Burdis, Muzaris, Umranis, and Jatois, are 
found to have their head-quarters in the partially desert 
tracts lying between the Indus and the Bolan Pass, and in or 



108 Captain Fostans on the Biluchi Tribes inhabiting Sindh, 

near the same locality are also found the Murris, Brogtis, 
Dumkis, Jekranls, and Jekrarus. The Chandias, again, are in 
the Chandokah district, of which Larkhana is the capital, and 
which is notorious as being the most fertile in all Sindh ; a 
very powerftil and numerous tribe, whose influence, when 
thrown into the balance, has often helped to settle matters 
affecting the stability of the rulers. There is another very 
important tribe, the Lagharis, the chief of whom, Ahmed 
Khan, was a distinguished nobleman and statesman at the 
Court of Hyderabad, holding an office equivalent to that of 
vizier or prime minister, but this tribe is said by some to be 
of Jutt extraction, and not real Bilueh. The Khosas were 
formerly a powerful tribe, but attaching their fortunes to the 
falling house of Kalora, they were visited, accordingly, by 
the successful Talptirs. On the confines of the desert known 
as the Thurr, which separates Sindh from Cutch and Guzerat, 
they are predatory, but in Sindh are cultivators and peace- 
able, and for Biltichi, an industrious class. I am not aware 
tliat there are any physical peculiarities distinguishing tribes 
generally, though, as will be hereafter noticed, the desert and 
hill Biltichi differ in costume, stature, and habits from their 
brethren of Sindh. There are numerous other tribes in the 
line of country designated, but they scarcely merit detail, 
were not the materials Avanting. 

The Biltichi, in their divisions into tribes, have a great 
deal of the family pride which distinguishes the Rajptit ; and 
of the above heads of families, the Binds are considered to 
hold a particularly high place — many of the other tribes, 
therefore, claim Bind extraction, such as the Murris, Dlimkis, 
Jekranis, and others. In marriage this is particularly ob- 
servable ; a daughter may be given by a Rind to a Bind, but 
it would be considered degrading to marry into a lower order 
of clan, the extreme pride with which this people boast of 
their claim, as before observed, to " Usui." A real unmixed 
Billlch blood is peculiar, and seldom seen amongst Mahome- 
dans in the East, though happily for them they are, or pretend 
to be, totally ignorant or unmindful of the very low estima- 
tion in which, as a people, they are elsewhere held, the term 
BilUch being by the other inhabitants of these countries lite- 



in the Lower Valley of the Indus and Cutchi. 109 

rally translated by its initial Persian letters to mean g> h6, 
thus *_* bud or bad J Um, lorchur or vagabond, and ^ cheem, 
eh6z or thief, a silly invention in itself, but significant of the 
bad character this people have gained. 

The Biluchi located in Sindh, acquired under the late 
Bildch dynasty a great and important share of the country, as 
Jabgirdars and feudatories, the tenure by which they held 
their possessions being military service, and very analogous 
to the old feudal system in Europe. This also obtained 
throughout the whole of BilUchistan. Locating themselves in 
tiie plains, and on the banks of the river, the Bilfichi in Sindh, 
though wild and barbarous as compared with the inhabitants 
of our own Indian provinces, were yet superior in this respect 
to their untamed brethren of the desert and mountains, who, 
occupied alternately as robbers or shepherds, are as wild as 
it is possible to find any race of men similarly situated. Even 
those who may be considered as peaceable clans, since they 
occupied themselves on their farms or estate as supervising 
cultivators, carried with them the thieving propensities for 
which they are notorious, and thus acquired for the inhabi- 
tants of Sindh generally a proverbially dishonest title, though 
in reality it appears to be this class which alon« merited it ; 
but we shall refer to this point more particularly in discuss- 
ing the character of this people- 

The style of living, as seen among the Sindhian Biltlchi, 
is totally devoid of the little comfort even adopted by the in- 
habitants of India. Each district wherein they aro located, 
possesses a small capital or head-quarters of the chief, which 
is only distinguished by the presence of a small mud fortifica- 
tion, from the usual reed and mud-built hovels comprising the 
Biltichi villages all over the country, which have an appear- 
ance of dirt and discomfort, unlike anything to be seen in the 
least important even of our Indian districts. Their fields, in 
many parts of Sindh and Cutchi, have a small mud tower in 
their centre, jvhence the possessor with his retainers guards 
his produce from the predatory attacks of his neighbours ; and 
a striking proof is thus afforded of a rude and unsettled state 
of society. In their houses (if they can be so termed) and 
persons, the Biltichi are filthy in the extreme, and appear to 



110 Captain Postans on the BUuchi Tribes inhabiting Sindh, 

be totally regardless of all beyond the mere every-day wants 
of an animal existence. It is no uncommon thing to see whole 
families sharing the shed, or, as it is called, Marri, which, 
composed simply of the reeds growing on the banks of the 
river, or the dried stalks of the Juwari, gives an inadequate 
shelter from the intolerably scorching sun of Sindh to them- 
selves, their cattle, and horses, a charpdi, or rude cot made of 
the Mtinj grass of the country, being the only furniture. Yet 
there is no cause for this apparent misery, since many of them 
inhabited a fertile country, and possessed some of its richest 
portions, but the lazy and indolent habits with which they 
were embued, forbode their turning any attention to the im- 
provement of their condition. Their food is principally com- 
posed of Juwari flour cakes, curds, and sour milk (the country 
being particularly rich in kine), and animal food, when they 
can obtain it. They prefer goats flesh to mutton for its 
strong flavour, and use spiritous liquors when attainable. 
The costume of the BiMchi in Sindh had undergone consider- 
able alterations during the last dynasty, and dififered greatly 
from that still adopted by the mountaineers and wild tribes 
of the desert. The turban gave way to a curiously-shaped 
cap, which appears to have been a bad imitation of a Persian 
head-dress, which looked much like an inverted hat, oifering 
no protection whatever to the face, though the crown extended 
somewhat beyond the summit. This is composed of the most 
gaudily-coloured cotton stuffs (or silks with the chiefs), and 
looked upon as an indispensable ornament. They affect ex- 
ceedingly wide Turkish drawers, which are closely buttoned 
at, and fall over the ancle. The surcoat is of white thin cot- 
ton, or mixed woollen and cotton in winter, and the waist is 
ornamented with an enormous roll of silk or cotton cloth of 
bright colours, the chiefs adopting the lunghi, a beautiful de- 
scription of half silk and cotton manufacture, for which Tattah 
was once so famous, and which was coveted at the most bril- 
liant courts of India. Over this is buckled a strap of broad 
deer-skin leather, with numerous appendages of all the pouches 
and paraphernalia required for the matchlock, highly orna- 
mented with metal studs (gold and silver with the chiefs), and 
bright embroidery. The sword is an indispensable article of 



in the Lower Valley of the Indus and Cutchi. Ill 

costume, and never abandoned. These people are passion- 
ately fond of arms, and are lavish in their expenditure to 
procure them. The Amirs sent emissaries, even as far as 
Constantinople, to obtain sword blades and matchlock barrels, 
though very beautiful ones were manufactured in the country. 
The shield, composed generally of rhinoceros horn, is large 
and flat, and usually suspended between the shoulders. The 
people dye their garments generally with indigo, and thus are 
enabled to wear them until they literally drop off, though the 
Cutchi tribes do not even take this precaution, and wear their 
flowing robes until they become literally black with grease 
and dirt. In person the Biltichi may be considered as a fine 
race of men, and are decidedly handsome. Those living in 
the hotter climate of the plains have somewhat deteriorated 
from the unusually large size and muscular strength for 
Asiatics peculiar to the mountaineers, but they are still a 
portly people. Amongst all classes corpulence is considered a 
great mark of beauty, and is encouraged to a ridiculous ex- 
tent. Nasir Khan, the late head of the Hyderabad family, 
though only in the very prime of life, and a strikingly hand- 
some fair complexioned man, was so unwieldy with obesity, 
that it was with difficulty he could walk across his hall of 
audience, and on rising, or attempting to rise, from his seat, 
was obliged to be assisted by his courtiers. The author has 
observed some extraordinary and frequent instances of longe- 
vity amongst the Biltichi located in Upper Sindh and Cutchi, 
far beyond what is usually seen in India, which with the large 
size and stature of this people united, warrant the conclusion, 
that the dry soils and climate, notwithstanding a degree of 
heat which is at times unequalled, is rather congenial than 
otherwise to the human constitution, certainly more so than 
the swampy banks of the river ; yet the deadly simfims of the 
Upper Sindh and Cutchi countries are certain death to all but 
a Biluch, who, without any hesitation, exposes himself fear- 
lessly to them, at a period when he tells you the very crows 
even are obliged to leave the country. For eight months in 
the year Cutchi is, however, a fine climate, and for five as 
cold as the most fastidious need require. The author, spealt- 
ing from experience, would prefer Shikarpore, with a good 



112 Captain Postans on the Biluchi Tribes inhabiting Sindh, 

protection from the sun, to any climate in Sindh, though the 
range of the thermometer there is 115° to 120" in the shade 
from May to August. The Sindhian BilUcbi are of very dark 
complexion, with fine oval contours of countenance, aquiline 
nose, and large expressive eyes. Unlike Mahomedans gene- 
rally, they cultivate the growth of the hair on the head as 
well as the beard. In Sindh, the former is confined under 
the cap by a knot and comb, being thrown back from the fore- 
head ; but in Cutchi and the mountains it is allowed to fall 
in wild luxuriance over the shoulders, and is often twisted in 
with the folds of the turban, imparting a peculiarly wild and 
savage appearance. A slight sketch of one or two of these 
figures would tend better to elucidate their appearance than 
an inadequate description. The hair is dyed black when it 
becomes grey, and holy characters use the henna plant to in- 
duce a red tinge to the beard and hair. The costume of the 
women is simply a pair of full drawers, confined by a string 
at the waist, and a loose shirt over them, reaching to the 
knees, and open at the bosom. Over the head is thrown a 
loose cloth. Their condition is that of perfect slavery, doing 
the whole of the hard work and drudgery for their lazy lords, 
who, occupied in the unceasing amusement of smoking or talk- 
ing in groups, pass their time away. The Biliich women are 
hard featured and plain, bearing in their manner and coun- 
tenances strong proofs of the degradation to which they are 
exposed. 

The Jutts do all the laborious work of the cultivation ; for 
though the Bilfichi possessed the land, they considered them- 
selves, like the military class in India, above such menial oc- 
cupations. This people profess the Mahomedan religion, and 
are, for the most part, of the Suni faith, though the chiefs 
were of the Sheah persuasion ; totally ignorant, however, of 
any beyond the mere outward forms of their profession, they 
leave the whole to Scynds, Pirs, and other holy men, who 
are well paid, and encouraged to settle amongst them ; so 
great is their reverence for these sacred characters, that 
they find a safe conduct at all times for themselves, and 
those whom they choose to protect, even through the most 
murderous clans, and in localities where no other stranger 



in the Lower Valley of the Indus and Cutchi. 113 

dare venture to trust himself; and are always employed as 
mediators to settle quarrels. If a Biltich have the promise 
of a Scynd, he considers himself safe ; but he knows full 
well the little value of that of his deadly enemy. Of course, 
under such circumstances, many claim the prophetic descent, 
who are little entitled to it ; and, indeed, most of these men 
in Sindh and Billichistan are as ignorant as all around them, 
though, such is their enthusiasm, that many learn the sacred 
volume by rote, without being able to translate a single 
word, and thus acquire the title so much coveted of 
" Hafiz," or remembrancer. For the Koran they hold a su- 
perstitious reverence, commensurate with their ignorance of 
its contents ; and a Biltich falls on his knees when the sacred 
volume is produced : he would not dare even to touch it ; but 
when he takes an oath, the book is put upon his head by the 
priest or scynd. Each tribe has its spiritual pastor, and a 
great portion of Sindhian cultivated territory was held in 
enam or gift by these men. A great authority, on Sindhian 
matters, has said (Mr Crow), " that the Sindhian has no li- 
berality but in feeding lazy Scynds — no zeal but in propa- 
gating the faith — no spirit but in celebrating the edes or 
festivals, — ^and no taste but in ornamenting old tombs :" this 
is certainly true of the Biltichi. Reputed holy and rapacious 
mendicants flourish amongst them whilst living, and their 
tombs become places of pilgrimage after death. In their 
fanatical zeal, they carry proselytism to the extent of often 
forcibly circumcising Hind6s ; and those of the latter, who 
held the principal offices as revenue collectors vmder the late 
Bilfich government, were invariably obliged to adopt the 
beard and full costume of the Mahomedan. The exactions 
of holy mendicants in Sindh are a real source of evil to the 
country; and so great are their numbers, and so distinct is 
their classification, that they would provide materials for a 
chapter by themselves ; — some even carry their effrontery so 
far as to travel mounted and fully armed. Such a vagrant 
character is not likely to go away empty-handed 1 

The arms of the Biltichi are the matchlock, sword, and 
shield, in the use of which they are very expert, though they 
pride themselves particularly, and trust implicitly, to the 



114 Captain Postans on the Biluchi Tribes inhabiting Sindh, 

sword. Their country is considered famous for its breed of 
horses; and though these are large and powerful animals, 
their paces, of a fast walk and shuffling amble, are intolerable 
to a European ; they themselves, however, invariably use 
mules, or a small description of pony, called in the country 
a jabii, very useful, and wonderfully enduring animals. The 
marauding clans ride only mares, to prevent the noise which 
horses make when together. The distances these little in- 
significant-looking animals will carry a heavy armed man, 
are incredible ; and some of their chapaos or forays prove in- 
contestably that no breed of horse, except, perhaps, the 
Turkoman, could beat them at this kind of work ; yet are 
they kept half-starved, and, to all appearance, quite unfit for 
exertion. The author recollects, on one occasion, having to 
ride a distance of forty miles express, and had, therefore, a 
relay of three horses to do the distance : he was accompanied 
by a Biluch guide, mounted as described, who laughed 
heartily at the quantity of horses required to do what he per- 
formed with one sorry looking brute, riding in advance the 
whole way, his steed shewing no symptoms of distress at the 
joiu-ney's end. On another occasion, a party of Hindostan 
horsemen, in pursuit of a predatory band, disabled twenty- 
eight horses, and left three dead on the field, in vainly at- 
tempting to catch these Biluchi. As the Biluch, in his 
boasted character of soldier and robber, is so intimately con- 
nected with his steed, this digression may be excused. The 
chiefs ride well-trained camels of the Mekran and Malwah 
breeds, but principally the former, which are much prized. 
One of the great propensities of the Sindhian Biluchi, is 
their immoderate love of field sports. The chiefs, it is true, 
set the example, by making them the all-absorbing occupa- 
tions of their lives, appropriating extensive and valuable por- 
tions of territory to preserves ; but throughout the whole of 
Sindh, the poorest Biluch, if he can muster a pair of hawks, 
or a dog or two to assist him in his chace, will be seen pur- 
suing it. This is not so much the case beyond the river, 
where it is not easy to find game. Sindh swarms with every 
description, and hence, probably, the inducement. They 
have no idea of firing at winged game, but knock it down 



in the Lower Valley of the Indus and Cutchi. 115 

with blunted arrows ; and this they will do with great pre- 
cision. 

The courts of the Sindh Amirs, at Hyderabad and Khy- 
apdr, furnished striking characteristics of Biltich manners, 
and were certainly peculiar. At the former resided the heads 
of the family, who, as is well known, divided the sovereignty 
of the lower Indus between them, and fuled conjointly under 
a singular participation of power. The leading features of a 
rude and semibarbarous state of society, were here exempli- 
fied ; the public durbars, or councils of the state, were attend- 
ed by a heterogeneous mob of Biluchi, (chiefs and wild re- 
tainei's,) Persians, Affghans, Seikhs, Rajpiits, and adventurers 
from every part of the East; and although the greatest 
respect, even to devotion, was intended by the Biltichi to 
their lords, yet their manner of shewing it was little in ac- 
cordance with our notions of etiquette or propriety, — they 
spoke in the loudest tone, and by their uncouth manners and 
gestures, would appear to a stranger to be anything but obe- 
dient followers. Knowing no respect of persons outwardly, 
the lowest Biltich would unhesitatingly beard even the Amirs 
themselves in open durbar ; and as a brother, and by caste an 
equal, he could not be denied any vivd voce representations 
which he might have to make. In a comer of the same hall 
of audience, where the most important aflFairs were probably 
discussed, a group of nautch women would add to the din and 
noise by their inharmonious yelling ; and, taken altogether, 
it was quite impossible to find anything in the East — where 
generally a ruler or chief is surrounded by so much studied 
etiquette — ^half so barbarous as a Sindh durbar. That of 
Khyrpfil, in Upper Sindh, was much more primitive, and 
therefore barbarous, than the Hyderabad court. Yet the ef- 
fect of such a combination of savage and armed groups was 
highly picturesque, and decidedly interesting. Strikingly 
contrasted with the rude and totally unpolished mariners of 
their retainers, were the conduct and bearing of the Amirs 
themselves ; for they were decidedly as courteous, and indeed 
gentlemanlike in this respect, as all around them was to the 
contrary. How they obtained this distinction, it is difficult 
to understand ; for they are scarcely a whit more enlightened 



116 Captain Postans on the Bilucki Tribes inhabiting Sindh, 

than any other of their Bilfich brethren, — having adopted a 
system of living excluded from the world and countries about 
them, which kept them centuries behind even the scanty 
civilization of their neighbours. Yet certain it is, and all who 
have had the opportunities of seeing much of them will cor- 
roborate it, that the Amirs, particularly of Lower Sindh, were 
individually and collectively, gentlemanly and polished men 
in their intercourse and familiar style. Nasir Khan, the late 
head, was particularly so, and could, indeed, render himself 
quite fascinating by his very agreeable deportment. The 
same may be said of his late elder brother and his nephews, 
the sons of Htir Mahmud. A Biltich welcome to court, has 
been described by the author in his work on Sindh, (see page 
200 to 205,) and it was illustrative of the rude virtue of hos- 
pitality which this people certainly possess. The Biltich 
forces, when assembled, were principally remunerated by 
supplies of food, and a very small proportion of pay. A cer- 
tain number of these rude troops were always on duty at the 
capital ; for so distrustful and jealous were the Amirs of each 
other, that they took especial care to be well attended. The 
wild uncouth figures encountered in the bazar, and even the 
royal residence of Hyderabad, were composed of these guards. 
A Biluch army, when assembled, was not easily dispersed ; 
and the chiefs authority became subservient to the general 
feeling, and they were borne along by it. Some striking in- 
stances of the absence of any control over their savage troops 
by the Amirs, have been repeatedly given of late years. 

The wild and marauding tribes of Bilfichi who inha- 
bit the desert tracts and rocky hills of Cutchi, are not to be 
confounded with their brethren who dwell in Sindh ; — little 
claim as the latter have to any but a barbarous title, they are 
yet far advanced when compared to the former ; and, more- 
over, do not so completely merit the titles of murderers and 
robbers, which have not undeservedly been applied to hordes, 
who lived by plunder and relentless cruelty — at deadly feud 
with each, and the scourge of the cultivated and peopled 
country in their vicinity. Some of these tribes are again dis- 
tinct in this particular from those in the neighbourhood of 
Kelat, or the mountaineers. Two or three of the former, of 



tM the Lower Valley of the Indus and Cutchi. 117 

whom the author had personal experience whilst in Sindh, 
deserve particular notice, as they afford examples of a reck- 
less bloodthirsty propensity, and irreclaimable love of a law- 
less life, which none of the other tribes so markedly possess. 
A strong proof of this was afforded in the deadly animosity 
they shewed to a clan claiming holy extraction, and therefore 
highly esteemed ; the Kyhiris, who styled themselves Sheikhs, 
but who were driven from their possessions, and treated with 
every imaginable cruelty by the tribes now to be mentioned, 
though with all others their sacred stock procured for them 
the highest respect, and they lived amongst them peaceably 
and were protected. These are the Dumkis, Jekranis, and 
Burdis ; — though thus mentioned together, it must not be 
concluded that they were partners in their vocation ; on the 
contrary, the Burdis owned no connection with the other 
two, who offered almost a single instance of any two Biluch 
tribes combining continually for a definite object, and that 
was plunder, effected often by the most violent and cruel 
means. The Dumkis and Jekranis inhabit the western bor- 
ders of Cutchi, at the foot of the hills, (commonly known as 
the Murri hills, from the tribe inhabiting them,) and sepa- 
rated from Sindh by a broad belt of complete desert. Cutchi, 
or as it is better known by its title of Cutch Gunderva, is 
that portion of territory extending from the desert to the 
point north and west of Shilialpd, where the inundations of 
the rivers cease to influence cultivation, to the mountains 
which separate the valley of the Indus from the higher coun- 
try of Biluchistan and Affghanistan. The partial fertility 
afforded by mountain streams on the western side of Cutchi, 
and the effects of rain in fair seasons, causes it to be held as 
the granary of the Brahtie and higher Biluch country ; but it 
is in various parts inhabited by the wildest of the Biluch 
tribes, particularly in its eastern confines, where a dry climate 
and scanty supply of water from wells, hardly furnish the 
means of raising forage for cattle ; and where (but for 
the fact of Sindh possessing interminable extents of uncul- 
tivated land capable of any amount of fertility), the Bilfi- 
chi might plead necessity for the lawless life they lead. 
Under a redoubtable leader, it was found on our first entry 



118 Capiain Postans on the Biluchi Tribes inhabiting Sindh, 

into Sindh, and during the march of our armies, that 
these clans, though comparatively few in number, ■ were 
powerful in a wild and desert country, which was habitable 
solely by themselves, scarcely affording more than forage for 
their horses, to do immense mischief. They had from time 
immemorial laid the Sindhian frontier completely at their dis- 
posal, and held the high road to Sandahar through the Bolan, 
quite at their mercy ; the traders purchased safety for their 
Kuffillars at exorbitant exactions, and in short, completely 
unmolested, these robbers ruled supreme ; they were all horse- 
men, and had for chiefs and leaders well approved and long- 
tried warriors. In campaigning against these hordes, and 
reducing them to obedience, much was seen of them, and they 
presented the appearance of wildness and ferocity to a degree 
unequalled in our Eastern experience. The inhabitants of 
Sindh, when the leaders were captured and brought in, would 
scarcely believe it possible, with all our power, that we could 
reduce such (to them) impracticable enemies. In person, these 
tribes differed much from those seen in Sindh, being larger in 
bulk and stature, and much more ferocious in aspect. Their 
costume was composed of the coarsest materials, large and 
flowing ; the turban a piece of loose dirty cloth twisted round 
the head, and interwoven with the long shaggy hair which 
hung in masses over the neck and shoulders. At all times 
fully armed and accoutred, and mounted on his.'singular-looking 
jabti, the Dumki, or Jekrani warrior, or father robber, formed 
a fitting subject for a study. The chapaos or forays of these 
tribes are services of danger, and made, as they often are, to 
an extreme distance from their own line of country. If, 
through fatigue or other accident, any individuals should fall, 
they deservedly receive little mercy at the hands of the inha- 
bitants. Each Biluch carries a supply of grain and water 
with him, the latter by means of a small skin slung under his 
horse's belly. Hardy, and inured to a trying climate, horses 
and men will undergo an almost incredible degree of fatigue 
and exertion in these raids, of which they are passionately fond. 
Neither age nor sex are spared to accomplish their pillaging 
purposes, and on these occasions they often kidnap children, 
whom they bring up as slaves. When it is known that a chapao 



in the Lower Valley of (he Indus and Cutchi. 119 

of Biltichi is out, or has been seen in the desert, the whole 
cultivated country is in a state of alarm, for, like a flight of 
locusts, it is impossible to say where the descent may occur. 
It was found totally impossible to impress these people with 
any sense of their being culpable in the lawless life they led ; 
they owned without the slightest hesitation, and rather, in- 
deed, with a sense of merit, that they were born and nurtured 
in robbery and murder, and considered them lawful and honor- 
able vocations. One miscreant, who, for his awful catalogue 
of crimes, was particularly denounced, and considered fully 
deserving of extreme punishment, exultingly shewed his sword, 
a murderous weapon, and declared that he counted one hun- 
dred lives to the blade. At a distance of thirty leagues from 
the Dtimki and Jekrani haunts, the poor inhabitants trembled 
for their safety, for no police existed to protect them. Strange 
to say, the leader of these very men was an old chief, far above 
his countrymen in sagacity and experience, with a great degree 
of dignity in his manner ; and Bigar Khan, for so he was called, 
was a far superior man to any real Biltich whom the author 
has met. Though living in this uncontrolled way, these tribes 
nominally owned the authority of the Khan of Kelat, though 
of course they paid no tribute beyond military service when 
required. The Amirs of Sindh were so afraid of them, that 
they gave them good lands within their own territories. 

The Burdis, an exceedingly troublesome and restless tribe, 
inhabitated a tract of rich country to the north and east of 
Shikanpur, and, before our arrival in Sindh, were almost 
as annoying as the two clans before mentioned ; but being 
at deadly feud with all about them, they were more confined 
in their operations. The author recollects a striking instance 
of the extraordinary state of society amongst these people, 
which may be quoted. On one occasion, having to transact 
business with a party of Burdis, some twenty of the tribe were 
seated around him, and it was suggested by a spectator that 
not a single individual of the party would be found with a 
whole skin, or without wounds over some part of his body. 
The examination was made, turbans were removed, and chests 
and arms bared ; the result was, that every man was more or 
less desperately seamed with sword cuts ; skulls indented, and 
VOL. I. ^ 



120 Captain Fostans an the BHuchi tribes inhaUHny Sindh, 

awful scars, the results of fearful wounds, more or less disfigured 
each individual. As the party was accidentally assembled, they 
offered a pretty fair specimen of the "peaceable habits of Bil(i- 
chi. The Sindhian authorities, whenever they had the good 
luck to c&toh a notorious deJinqnent, (which was seldom,) 
mutilated him or them by cutting off the left hand ; for the 
Biliich men never deprived a Bildch of life ; and many does 
the author know so situated, yet still managing, with his Kh«- 
assan mare, and right hand at liberty, to be capable of setting 
a whole district in a state of perfect misery and commotion ! 
The experiment was tried by the British authorities, of re- 
claiming these tribes by holding out inducements to peaceable 
occupations, but in vain ; for as the Asiatics happily express 
it, the " ass on which the prophet* rode was still an ass" — the 
robber was a robber to the last. The Bilfichi, as well as the 
Mekrains, ai'e found in India, serving in the capacity of mer- 
cenaries ; and the author heard of a colony of them settled in 
the neighbourhood of Aurungabad, in the centre of the Deckan, 
where they had originally emigrated in the above capacity. 
They do not, however, hold so high a title as the Arabs as 
military hirelings — ^the latter being some of the most deter- 
mined enemies we have had to encounter. 

It would be uninteresting to describe in detail all of the 
tribes ; but we may mention the really powerful clan of Murris, 
who inhabit the rocky defiles and valleys of the Murri hills. This 
division holds a very high reputation for bravery and indepen- 
dence, and it was proved by us that they fully merited it ; for 
on its being considered necessary to occupy their country, we 
were brought into hostility with them, and they behaved with 
true gallantry, and shewed a high-minded and generous sense 
of honour and good faith, which was little to be expected from 
what we had seen of their neighbours. The occupation of this 
stronghold, its gallant and almost unparalleled defence by a 
mere handful of our men, the fierce battle of Nufusk, which 
cost us an awful sacrifice of valuable lives, were the prelude to 
scenes, wherein the most extraordinary and striking ptoofs 
were given by the Murri Bil6chi, of their being a high- 



• Our Saviour. 



in the Lower Valley of the Indus and Cutchx. 121 

minded set of men ; actuated by principles which all must 
honour, even in more civilized communities, and lastly beget- 
ting, from deadly hostility, that mutual confidence, and indeed 
admiration, which springs from just appreciation of good quali- 
ties. (Interesting details of these may be seen in the United 
Service Gazette for March, and subsequently.) Inhabiting 
the same range of hills are the Bugtis. Neither these nor the 
Murris were actively predatory, though they allowed the 
Dtimkis and Jekranis the shelter afforded by the strong hilly 
country they inhabited. The Murris commanded the lower 
portion of the Bolan pass, disputing the domain over this ter- 
rific defile with the Kakurs and Khusacks ; and beyond these 
again, westward, the Muzaris and Kulpurs. These two latter 
were troublesome subjects of the Punjaub government, and 
as restless and predatory as all about them ; but they were 
kept in admirable order by the governor of Multan, who occa- 
sionally dispatched large forces against them. The Muzaris 
are at deadly feud with the Btirdis, alternate devastating forays 
being made by both. 

The Biltichi, particularly the wild tribes of Cutchi, enter- 
tain Bards, or, as the Rajputs call the same class of people, 
Bh4ts ; in Sindh the Ltiris are a kind of gipsy vagabond tribe, 
who make this their vocation. The songs are often composed 
on the warlike deeds or records of forays, or chapaos ; the 
music, if so it can be called, is rude in the extreme ; the 
opening of each stanza being given by a loud cry, as of a per- 
son in intense pain, or under great grief, and the voice is 
gradually lowered until the conclusion of the stanza; it is 
accompanied by a rude guitar. Thus amused, a group of these 
wild men will sit for a whole night smoking and dozing, 
their greatest idea of happiness being the " dolce far niente" 
of the Italian, or the Kheif of the Turk. With the Cutchi 
tribes, the women appear to hold a higher rank than in 
Sindh ; — here they are said to be admitted to council, and in 
warfare share the dangers with their husbands or relatives. 
On several occasions, these heroines presented their own bo- 
dies as shields to protect individuals from the fire of our 
troops. 

A.S the Mahomedan laws with regard to marriage, plurality 



122 Captain Fostans on (he Biluchi Tribes inhabiting Sindh, 

of wives, &c., are generally adhered to by these tribes, it may 
be vmnecessary to revert to them. 

The Brahilis, who form the large body of the mountaineers 
and pastoral people in and around Kelat, are a distinct race 
from the Biluchi, and have been so accurately and minutely 
described by Sir H. Pottinger and Mr Masson, that these 
authors must be consulted for all information on this people, 
who preserve implicitly a primitive, simple, and patriarchal 
style of living, and whose character as inoffensive and in- 
dustrious, is far superior to that of their neighbours the 
Biluchi. 

In speaking of the character of the Biltichi, our remarks 
should be tempered with due consideration for the circum- 
stances which have conduced to form it ; living in a state of 
semibarbarism, and separated from all civilizing and amelior- 
ating influences by their somewhat isolated position, they have 
retained only some of the ruder virtues, and have ingrafted, 
on these, many propensities which may be denounced as 
vices. But first, of their better qualities, we may allude to 
their hospitality, good temper, sociability, good faith when 
pledged, courage, and patience of endurance. Hospitality is 
peculiar, I believe, to nomade people, and it is a prominent 
feature amongst the Biltichi. The kind welcome given to 
the wayfarer or stranger, is very marked and pleasing. In 
all, the true patriarchal mode is adopted, as seen with the 
Arabs to the present day, of giving the stranger the tenderest 
of the flock, and the best the hut or tent affords. Amongst 
the chiefs and rulers, it was carried to a great excess ; and on 
any arrival of a man of rank at their courts or strongholds, 
he was not only entertained himself, but all his retainers 
were feasted to their hearts' content, and all their wants pro- 
vided for, for any length of time he or they chose to sojourn 
as a guest. The first study of a Biluch, from the highest to 
the lowest, was this display of kindly feeling. On arrival, 
tired or wayworn at a Biluch village, the author has often 
thrown himself in a cot, and, to his surprise, has suddenly 
found himself surrounded by a party of these wild men, who 
began to chafe and knead his limbs, and continued to do so 
for hours, to dispel lassitude and fatigue ; vying with each 



in the Lower Falley of tlie Indus and Cutchi. 123 

other, at the same time, in supplying his wants, or appeasing 
hunger or thirst with the best of their simple food or bever- 
age. Not to receive such civilities is the height of rudeness, 
and, on the other hand, to eat of his salt and dip your hand 
into his dish, is the signal for claiming him us a brother ; — in 
short, all who have travelled through their countries have 
been forcibly impressed with this very pleasing trait of Biliich 
character. 

These people have an amazing stock of good temper mixed 
with then- ignorance, almost amounting to stupidity. A Bi- 
Itich can readily understand and enter into a joke, and, like 
the Arab of Egypt, it is the best means of eflfecting a purpose 
with him. He may be thus brought to meet your views 
when other plans would probably fail ; when excited, how- 
ever, he is fierce and savage enough for any deed of blood or 
violence. The Biltichi are sociable even to an extent un- 
known amongst Asiatics generally, as evinced in their ordi- 
nary salutations, and the great delight they take in forming 
parties for the sole purpose of smoking, talking, singing, or 
drinking together. They accost each other with a curious 
string of inquiries, not only after the health of the individual 
addressed, but those of his family, and the welfare of his house 
generally ; the Salaam uleik{im, is only a prelude to the usual 
chunqo, hullah? kliiar ? suUah?* &c., which, when con- 
cluded by one party, must be taken up by the other. In a 
large assembly, as for instance a burbar, these inquiries and 
rejoinders occupied a considerable space of time, and even 
after these, if, during the interview, the stranger's eye caught 
that of an acquaintance, he would join his hand, and demand 
inquiringly and earnestly, " Koosh ?" Are you well, or happy ? 
The Biltichi embrace a friend by laying the head alternately 
on each shoulder ; and being, as before described, a portly 
race, the ceremony was trying in so sultry a climate, for each 
individual of a party exacted this ceremony. In all this, how- 
ever, there was, beyond the mere ceremonies which in the 
East are a regular portion of education, and as indispensable 
as any other occupation of life,, a great deal of sociable and 

* Are you well, happy comfortable ? 



124 Captain Postans on the Biluchi Tribes inhabiting Sindh, 

kindly feeling, and, from the most polished to the rudest of 
the race, formed a marked feature of character. The author 
could quote some personal anecdotes of this, but they are 
perhaps unnecessary. When a BilUch has plighted his 
faith to the performance of any particular act, as of safe- 
conduct or protection (except in cases where a strong enemy 
may come within his power), he is generally to be relied upon, 
at least as far as bis influence may extend. The traders found 
this in traversing their country ; for though they paid a cer- 
tain amount for the service performed, yet completely at the 
mercy of tlieir escort with highly valuable consignments, they 
could only look for safety to this principle ; and, indeed, acting 
upon it, the commerce of those countries was carried on to a 
certain extent flourishingly, whilst we ourselves, in attempt- 
ing to alter it, and protect the merchant, were the most for- 
midable enemies to the latter, and almost ruined his voca- 
tion. 

The Biluch is brave when occasion calls for the display of 
bravery, as late and many previous events have testified ; and 
when, with his rude arms and total ignorance of any other 
principle, than that the best swordsman and strongest man is 
the best soldier, he meets a disciplined force and falls at the 
muzzles of our guns or points of our bayonet.s, we must, injus- 
tice to him as well as his gallant opposers, pronounce hira a war- 
rior worthy of our steel. Reverting here to some of his bad 
points, we may attach, to his courage, cruelty ; and certainly 
amongst some of the wilder tribes, this accusation may fairly 
be supported, though it is doubtful if it will stand against the 
whole body. The late Amirs were particularly distinguished 
i'or a total absence of this vice, and, though their power was 
absolute, they seldom or never punished with death any of their 
subjects, and it may be doubted if, except amongst the deter- 
minedly lawless tribes, the Biluchi generally are obnoxious to 
this accusation. With hordes who exist by plunder, the 
result must be sanguinary and ferocious habits, but though 
the whole of the Biluchi tribes have been pronounced, and 
are more or less knavish and prone to thieving, there are 
only a few who follow robbery as a regular profession ; and 
these have acquired for the mass, at least those who have 



in the Lower Valley of the Tndu* and Cutchi. 125 

suffered more or less from their violence, a really worse char- 
acter, in this respect, than they deserve. A high authority 
(Captain M'Murdo) has said, that this thieving propensity is 
so inherent in the Biltich, that in Sindh, chiefs and men, 
otherwise in no way impelled to do so, will, for the mere love 
of the thing, take the road and turn highwaymen. Pride 
commensurate with a state of barbarous ignorance, is a lead- 
ing feature in the Billichi, and they are mean and avaricious. 
Bigoted in proportion to their want of knowledge of all be- 
yond the mere forms of their religion, they treat with studied 
intolerance all Kafirs or unbelievers ; and the miserable Hindu, 
who, to suit his own purposes of traf&c and gain, has located 
himself amongst them, is at all times prepared for violence 
prompted by fanaticism and degradation, the result of his 
creed ; but this, and more, he is contented to bear to effect 
his object (not only with Bildchi, but even Turkomans), and, 
curiously enough, one vice counteracting another, in many 
parts of Sindh the Hindlis have become not only wealthy, but 
so influential, as to be able at times to resist oppression by a 
sort of tacit opposition, which is very effective. Thus, in any 
extraordinary act of oppression, threatened or coinmitted on 
any of their body individually, the Hindus of Shillinpur would 
shut up their shops and abandon the city. All trade was 
thus at a complete stand-still, and the revenue ceased alto- 
gether ; they thus soon obtained their own terms with their 
avaricious rulers. The state of the Hindlis in these countries, 
however, is by no means so bad as that of the Copts in Egypt, 
or the Jews occupying nearly the same relative position in 
Mahomedan countries generally. Captain M'Murdo's sum- 
mary of Sindhian character may be applied, to a certain ex-^ 
tent, to the Biluchi situated between Mickran and Hindus- 
tan ; they seem to have acquired the vices both of the barba- 
rity on the one side, and the civilization on the other, without 
the virtues of either. 

The BiMchi are addicted to the use of spiritous liquors, 
and the intoxicating seed of the hemp plant, or Bang. They 
do not, however, carry these to the effect of downright ine- 
briety, but induce a certain degree of stupidity, which may 
be analogous to that so much coveted by the opium eater. 



126 Captain Postans on the' BUuchi Tribes inhabiting Sindh. 

The pipe, with both sexes, is scarcely ever from the mouth. 
They are, as may be supposed, indolent and lazy, leaving la- 
bour of every kind to the Jutts, and other working classes. 

The language of the Biltichi is difFerent from that of 
their neighbours, whether Sindhs, Brahtiis, or A£fghans ; and, 
in sound, assimilates to bad Persian ; so that, as observed by 
Sir H. Pottinger, it is possible to catch the meaning occa- 
sionally by a knowledge of the latter tongue. It is not writ- 
ten, however, and is considered altogether so barbarous even 
in these barbarous countries, that the Bil(ich is said to have 
learnt it of his goats when he was a shepherd in the moun- 
tains. A vocabulary and grammar was formed by Lieut. Leed, 
a highly intelligent officer, which exists in the records of the 
East India Company. 

Having thus concluded the few observations which he has 
to offer on the BiMchi, as seen by him in the course of a 
residence of 3^ years, divided between Upper Sindh and in 
the Cutchi districts, — ^he only trusts they may be found of 
some trifling interest, though he does not presume for a mo- 
ment to place his rough notes in conjunction with the records 
of those higher authorities whom he has quoted, and who 
should be consulted by all anxious to obtain a more intimate 
acquaintance with a people, over a great number of whom we 
now wield a direct sway, and whose interests may therefore 
be said to be in our keeping. Though the Biltich has been 
considered an implacable enemy, the author would remark, 
as the result of his experience, that if the interests of these 
people were duly cared for, and sufficient inducements, with a 
conciliatory manner adopted, there is no reason, he thinks, to 
doubt, but they would duly appreciate a change which might 
thus be effected in their condition. But this is a subject 
scarcely admitting of inquiry here ; and it only remains to 
observe, that with all their faults, he looks back with many 
pleasing recollections to opportunities he enjoyed in Sindh, 
for seeing much of a wild but interesting people.